Wednesday, October 1, 2014

From I've just been diagnosed with cancer. Should I tell others? And when?

My latest on An important topic. Getting a life altering health diagnosis leaves our heads spinning, or at least it did mine. The last thing we are prepared to do is share the news with others. Whatever we decide is perfectly ok. There is no "perfect" answer, just what works for you. Go with your gut instinct and make no apologies.

I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. Should I tell others? And when?

I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer. Should I tell others? And when?


First, there is no right or wrong answer on who you decide to tell about your diagnosis, when, or how. For me, when I was diagnosed in January 2012, I wanted to tell no one except a few people that had to know, which included my boss at work, my parents and brothers, my best friend, and a few others. I was totally focused on winning the battle ahead of me and I had no desire whatsoever to see fear or pity in anyone’s eyes. Just weeks after my diagnosis, my close friend from high school was also diagnosed with cancer and she announced it on Facebook. “I have just been diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer that has spread to my hip and lung. Please pray for me,” she wrote. Which of us was right in our approach? We both were.

Make no apologies to anyone about who you decide to share your cancer diagnosis with, whether it be the world or just your closest supporters. As a single woman who had just entered the dating scene, I struggled with how much of my health I should divulge to someone I just met. Eventually I decided that no one was entitled to know private health information early on and, if things should progress, only then would I share. After about six weeks of dating my boyfriend, I told him one evening about my multiple myeloma. Only then did he learn that my hair was actually a wig. It wasn’t easy but it was the right time and place. Other than lots of questions and curiosity, it didn’t phase him, which if it had, we didn’t belong together anyway. It’s been coming up on three years now that I’ve been living with myeloma and I’m far more comfortable with sharing my health news with others but still, I never meet someone new and say, “Hi, I’m Lizzy and I’m a cancer survivor” either. Myeloma is just one piece of “me” and it isn’t the only thing that defines me. Should you take this same approach? Of course not (unless you want to).

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